Steve Smith’s Blog

Long Run Recovery Strategies

Most Marathon training injuries occur after long training runs, like the 22 miler this weekend. These runs require the same recovery strategies as a marathon with the exception that you can’t rest nearly as much afterward. Although running long distances is necessary to train your body to handle the stress of a Marathon, there is a significant risk of an injury. How you recover from long runs will often determine whether or not you wind up on the injured list, watching your friends run by with their bibs on.

Long runs cause your muscles to adapt. They do so by remodeling at the cellular level. This means that there is a certain amount of muscle damage, tearing down tissues and replacing them with stronger structure. It is with this in mind that your recovery strategy should be aimed. Here are a few things to think about after your long run and after a marathon:

  • Within the first 20 minutes eat some carbs to replenish your energy reserves and give your muscles some nutrition. They are still cooking and need the fuel.
  • Keep moving, don’t sit down and take a rest. Walk around and keep your muscles active so that you can remove the end products of  metabolism from the deep issues.
  • Do mild stretching, not intense. This helps to avoid tightening up
  • Get home and take an ice bath. If I have one piece of advice for you it is this one. Get a 5 to 10 pound bag of ice and pour it into a cold bath just deep enough to immerse your legs and gluteal region, then lower yourself into the bath. I do this with my running clothes still on because psychologically it seems less cold. It will be painful for about 1 or 2 minutes. At about 3 or 4 minutes all the stiffness and soreness magically evaporates. Stay in the bath for about 10 minutes.
  • Keep drinking fluids, drink slightly more than your thirst asks for.
  • Your appetite may disappear for several hours but you should plan ahead for a protein meal later on, when the hungeroids take over. The hungeroids will drop you to your knees and make you eat almost anything, so plan your big recovery meal in advance!
  • Take it easy for the rest of the day. Make sure to schedule out the rest of your long run days. Having no obligations will allow you to rest up and take a nap later if you need it.
  • I wouldn’t have a massage for at least a day. Don’t have deep tissue. Instead try effleurage, sweeping light strokes to flush out lactic acid and reduce soreness. Never allow deep tissue to your calves after a long run. If it is painful, it is probably too much.
  • The next day take a walk. This helps combat stiffness and removes any remaining lactic acid.
  • During the next week you need rest. You should have cross training on your schedule to avoid running for several days to a week. Use the elliptical trainer, bike or aqua-jog. Remember, it is the short run after your long run when the injuries happen. Keep your runs easy and short.
  • Watch for any sign of pain or weakness on your next run and be ready to bail out, lest you continue to run and injure yourself.

You are committed to the Marathon at this point. You need to plan your life around training and recovery. Don’t plan any big weekends and don’t start any big projects. If you get the flu or a cold you are going to miss valuable training. Stay away from crowds and sick people. Wash your hands regularly, especially if you shake hands with people or touch areas where others have been in contact. Pay close attention to your diet. Plan meals carefully, go to the store and do meal preparation for the coming week. Don’t allow activities to creep into your schedule that would interfere with training.

These recommendations are for new marathoners. If you ran a marathon last year, you are a new runner. If you are very experienced at half marathons but not marathons, you are a new runner in the realm of marathons. Marathon training challenges your body far more than what you would normally experience during a half marathon. If you are very experienced at Marathons, you are probably already following most of these recommendations.

These recommendations will help get you to the finish line in good condition.

Onward to Victory!

Steve Smith

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